IHP Cultural Heritage

Legacy, Identity, & Curating the Future

Examine the lineage of colonialism and cultural appropriation through the practice of preservation of historic artifacts and rituals

At a Glance




Relevant previous coursework

Courses taught in



mid-August – early December

Program Countries

Ghana, Nepal, Netherlands

Program Base

Nepal, Netherlands, Ghana

Critical Global Issue of Study

Identity & Human Resilience

Identity & Human Resilience Icon


Why study cultural heritage in Nepal, The Netherlands & Ghana?

This program examines the value of cultural heritage in the life of contemporary societies. What forms of care, recognition, or attention are given to physical and intangible artifacts and history today? How does the debate about cultural heritage shape the politics of identity? What new ethics guide the promotion and management of cultural heritage? Who has the power to determine and maintain an “authentic” culture?

As a complex and dynamic process, preservation of cultural heritage is tied to local and global power structures. Competing narratives legitimize or de-legitimize value systems and shape how we interact with the past. In modern post- and neocolonial communities, the relation to and commemoration of cultural heritage is used to justify political, economic, and social programs.

In Nepal, The Netherlands, and Ghana, discover comparative and interdisciplinary perspectives on cultural heritage at museums, archives, and historic sites. Interrogate the preservation and promotion of cultural heritage, including intangible creations, natural phenomena, and physical constructions, and explore ways that communities and institutions are engaging with the legacy of the past. Hear from artists, communities, and professional cultural workers within cultural institutions and creative industries. Learn to challenge preconceptions regarding patrimony, reconfigure the curation of culture at every scale, and confront your embodied positionalities vis-à-vis the past, present, and the “moral economy of cultural identity.”

Unlike other IHP comparative programs, this one does not have U.S. programming. However, the group will depart together from Los Angeles to Nepal.



  • Evaluate competing claims for indigeneity in contemporary Nepal, including land use and physical birthrights, as well as ritual among intangible cultures.
  • Consider the celebration of queer history, commemoration of the Holocaust, and the marketing of “authentic” cultural experience in The Netherlands.
  • Analyze Ghana's complex role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade and critique its implications on Pan-Africanism.
  • Work both independently and collaboratively on a series of artistic or cultural curatorial projects that put theory to practice.


Previous college-level coursework or background in anthropology, history, economics, sociology, or political science, as assessed by SIT. Coursework or background in philosophy, religion, or ethics is recommended but not required.

Program Sites

Los Angeles, California, USA

You will depart for Nepal on a group flight from Los Angeles, California. Unlike other IHP comparative programs, this one does not include U.S.-based programming.

Kathmandu, Nepal

(5 weeks)

Kathmandu boasts seven UNESCO world heritage sites within the greater metropolitan area, including our program center site at the great Buddhist stupa of Boudha. Sandwiched between the two superpowers of China and India, in Nepal you will witness the geopolitics of reconstruction after the devastating 2015 earthquake. Observe the dynamics of multi-ethnic identity politics following the 2008 creation of the secular Federal Democratic Republic. You will travel to the lowlands to vist two more UNESCO world heritage sites, one natural and one cultural: the National Park of Nepal at Chitwan, and the birthplace of the Buddha at Lumbini (c.2500 BCE), which has been under rapid development as a global pilgrimage destination since 1978.

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

 (4+ weeks)

Perched on the northern edge of Europe, Amsterdam is a global capital with a chill vibe, a thriving queer scene, varied nightlife, and a dreamy landscape of gabled houses and quiet canals. Explore the legacies of colonialism in a place coming to terms with its exploitative past at the same time that it celebrates its image as an international melting pot and the most liberal city in the world.

Accra, Ghana

(5 weeks)

As the capital of the first country south of the Sahara to gain independence from European colonialism, Accra has always had a Pan-African identity. The effects of colonialism can be seen in monuments and buildings, events, and cultural practices that characterize the city. Located on the Atlantic Ocean, Accra has a vibrant night life and cosmopolitan social relations that highlight its place in a highly globalized world. Investigate diverse responses to colonialism while visiting Cape Coast and Kumasi.

Please note that SIT will make every effort to maintain its programs as described. To respond to emergent situations, however, SIT may have to change or cancel programs.


Program Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the program, students will be able to:

  • Create a working definition of ”cultural heritage” and identify the myriad stakeholders in the conservation and curation landscape to navigate those fields successfully.
  • Explain impacts of historical injustices committed during the plundering of cultural artefacts on ongoing cultural negotiations of Indigenous and hybrid communities in Nepal, The Netherlands, and Ghana.
  • Use research skills and techniques, such as formulating research questions; reviewing relevant literature; interrogating relevant primary-source material, material culture, and cultural artifacts; and conducting interviews to design an economically and politically viable curatorial project.
  • Explain the relationship between curation, tourism, and the creation and maintenance of cultural identity in a manner that demonstrates understanding of the economics of cultural heritage.
  • Identify the challenges facing the preservation of Indigenous physical and intangible cultural heritage in Nepal, Ghana, and The Netherlands.
  • Use professional knowledge acquired through field visits and discussions with curators and museum experts to strategize a career in cultural institutions management.

Read more about Program Learning Outcomes.


The following syllabi are representative of this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term.

The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.

Please expand the sections below to see detailed course information, including course codes, credits, overviews, and syllabi.

This is SIT

  • We value active togetherness, reciprocity, and respect as the essential ingredients for building a sustainable community.
  • With open minds, empathy, and courage, we facilitate intercultural understanding and respect for the commonalities and differences between people.
  • We champion social inclusion & justice in all that we are and all that we do, from ensuring our community and our programs amplify the voices, agency, and dignity of all people to deliberately instilling the principles and practices of inclusion in all of our work.
  • We are committed to human and environmental well-being through sustainability and contributing to a better world for all living and future generations.

Conservation and the Economics of Cultural Heritage

Conservation and the Economics of Cultural Heritage – syllabus
(ICHR3000 / 4 credits)

Given time, a simple terracotta pot can impart as much cultural importance as a cave painting or a temple, assuming it is properly understood and duly commodified, packaged, marketed, and sold to a public. In this course, we think about the business of commodifying, packaging, and marketing conservation and cultural heritage. The stakeholders in the activity of conservation are numerous and diverse. On the front lines are museums and curators, university faculty, and artists such as the members of dance companies performing traditional dances for public consumption. Government ministries, public donors, and occasionally inadvertent collateral actors (like the landowners upon whose property an archeological dig might have been discovered) all find themselves in the fray, balancing the cost of conservation with the benefit of tourist dollars and the global good face they can earn from careful marketing of their social brands. The modest merchants who hawk tourist tat, the baristas pouring substandard coffee at the cafes attached to attractions, and the licensed tour guides hovering around the gates of historical sites are equally concerned with the decisions, if not equally considered in the discussion, about cultural heritage management. In all, patrimony is big business.

The very practical concerns like keeping museum lights on and building fences around protected locations combine with more philosophical questions. What is cultural heritage and patrimony? Where do we draw the line between artifact and old garbage? Should everything be saved? To whom does an Indigenous location belong? Under whose curation can religious artifacts be conserved? What sort of duty does a colonizing country owe its former colonies? At what point in history does a culture exist? At what point are their transgressions forgiven? Ought the global community to intervene to preserve world heritage? And who gets to decide what world heritage sites are, anyway? In this course we examine these questions in our three locations through numerous site visits and in-depth discussion.

Identity, Commemoration, and Agency

Identity, Commemoration, and Agency – syllabus
(ICHR3500 / 4 credits)

Identity is not fixed; rather, it is a transient notion under continual construction in negotiation with the past, present, and future. Neither individuals nor societies can claim clear memory. What happened in the past is hazy, contested, and repeatedly mutating every time it is re-rehearsed. This is in the hands of myriad creators. Artists, tour guides, gift shop stockers, landscape architects, and museum curators are but a few of those entering into conversation with the public, tourists and locals alike, to decide what a place is and what it means.

This course examines the slippery process of codifying and commemorating the past, with a particular eye to the way the past can be marshaled to promote an idea of the present that meets the needs of a contemporary market. We are especially interested in the way stories are claimed by governments, organizations, and special-interest groups as we discuss the idea of agency. Who owns the narrative around slavery, the Holocaust, religious practices, and marginal identities? How are these experiences incorporated into broader narratives to create larger corporate identities? Through site visits, lectures, readings, and copious discussion, we will explore these questions to inform our understanding of the intersection of commemoration and identity.

Historical In/justice and Curating the Future

Historical In/justice and Curating the Future – syllabus
(SJIR-3000 / 4 credits)

Cultures deploy the past to explain their present and to help shape their futures;. Cultural heritage sites are regularly the locus upon which this myth-building is performed. Much of what we call history is but a catalog of ongoing atrocities. Violence, sporadic and ongoing, overt and covert, strategic and chaotic, tends to be what we invoke to demarcate places and eras; framing violence composes the narrative that we call our “history.” Thus, explaining and commemorating violence and misery can occupy much of a curator’s time.

In this course, we will explore how we talk about the past to build the future, often centering the discourse on conflict. We will pay particular attention to the questions around restitution of looted artifacts, preservation of “Indigenous” spaces, and the commemoration of mass violence.

This course is not simply a litany of misery. We will think through how to make sense of past injustice and use the power of memory to create a better future.

Comparative Fieldwork Methods and Ethics

Comparative Fieldwork Methods and Ethics – syllabus
(ANTH3500 / 4 credits)

The Comparative Fieldwork Methods and Ethics seminar (CFME) introduces students to the conceptual and practical tools essential to forming constructive relationships with organizations and/or individuals from other cultures, particularly those required for completing academic work and cultural heritage projects. The course enhances students’ skills at building a network; initiating purposeful dialogue in the cultural context of the three constituent countries; gathering, recording, and analyzing primary data; writing an academic report; and curating interpretative materials. The course pays particular attention to the ethics of working, researching, touring, and living as a cultural guest.

The class situates these ethical issues specifically as they apply within the cultural context of Nepal, Ghana, and the Netherlands and the program’s critical global issues. The course aims to equip a student to produce curatorial projects in their program location. More importantly, it also gives students the intellectual tools to move about the world, learning and growing in an ethical manner.

Homestays / Housing


Student accommodations will include a mix of homestays, hostels, guesthouses, and small hotels/dorms. Students will experience homestays where possible, given COVID-19, and will be oriented as they move from place to place.

More About Homestay Experiences:

Family structures will vary. For example, a host family may include a single mother of two small children, or a large extended family with many people coming and going. Please bear in mind that the idea of what constitutes a “home” (i.e., the physical nature of the house) may be different from what you would expect. You will need to be prepared to adapt to a new life with a new diet, a new schedule, new people, and possibly new priorities and expectations.

In most cases, students will be placed in homestays in pairs, with placements made to best accommodate health concerns, including allergies or dietary needs. Information about homestay families will only be available upon arriving in each country.


Faculty & Staff

IHP Cultural Heritage: Legacy, Identity, & Curating the Future

Jana Byars, PhD
Program Director
Isabelle Onians, PhD
Program Director
Kwabena Opoku-Agyemang, PhD
Program Director

Discover the Possibilities

  • Cost & Scholarships

    SIT Study Abroad is committed to making international education accessible to all students. Scholarship awards generally range from $500 to $5,000 for semester programs and $500 to $3,000 for summer programs. This year, SIT will award more than $1.5 million in scholarships and grants to SIT Study Abroad students.

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